A New Lease on Life

Transforming a vacant outlet mall into an award-winning life sciences facility through sustainable adaptive reuse

Once a lifeless, vacant retail complex, the former Morrisville Outlet Mall was redeveloped into an award-winning life sciences lab and production facility to house the East Coast operations of Invitae, a leading medical genetics company. Through purposeful adaptive reuse, the facility will expand the company’s capacity to meet increasing global demand and further its mission to make genetic information affordable and accessible for billions of patients worldwide.

The former shopping outlet was redeveloped into a 125,000-square-foot laboratory and production facility, with an additional 125,000 square feet of space for future growth. Pending LEED certification, the facility’s innovative building reuse approach retained much of the existing envelope and structure resulting in over 80 percent waste reduction during construction and significant energy savings anticipated over its life span.

Repurposing the existing building form presented a creative challenge to our team of lab planners and designers in breaking down the expansive structure into appropriately scaled spaces. However, it also provided a unique opportunity to test the boundaries of designing an adaptable, sustainable laboratory and production facility.

With the dynamic nature of the work housed at this facility, the project was designed for maximum flexibility and ease of onsite reconfiguration. Careful study of the building allowed designers to leverage existing architectural elements to create necessary boundaries and effectively use tertiary space to shape the form. Enhancing the sense of openness, implementation of the Starline overhead power distribution system accommodated the custom design, allowing for coordination with the existing structural columns, increased mobility, and adaptability for lab setup modifications.

Each lab zone was created to ebb and flow as departments expand or contract and as necessary equipment is introduced or removed. While these zones were largely designed for ease of circulation, articulating defined paths was necessary to adhere to safety protocols and avoid contamination between functions. The program’s flexible, open design afforded clear sight lines, cohesive integration of the clean room, and ample daylighting opportunities throughout the lab and meeting spaces to provide abundant natural lighting and a resultant 20 percent energy reduction.  

Through our connection to the Research Triangle Park life sciences community, our team was chosen as a preferred partner in successfully delivering this fast-tracked, on-budget tenant upfit project within eight months from demolition to turnover. Invitae’s East Coast Laboratory and Production Facility has recently been named the 2022 Best Project in Renovation/Restoration by Engineering News-Record Southeast.  

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